Foods for Restful Sleep

What you eat at night can promote restful sleep or keep you up all night. Here's a short list of foods to add to your dinner plate. In the case of dairy and meat, while these foods may help you fall asleep, evaluate whether they help you stay asleep and how they make you feel in the morning. Do you feel congested? Heavy? Constipated? Lose? Drowsy or foggy? etc.

Further, I have a list of 11 foods to limit or avoid in order to promote restful sleep. What to keep or let go of on this list is bio-individual. Try to determine how any of these 11 foods affect your sleep. Does the food:

  • Increase congestion in your sinuses and make you snore at night (dairy and red wine creates an inflammatory reaction)?,
  • Raise your body heat and give you cold sweats (red meat tends to do that)?
  • Make you feel alert and jittery (sugar, caffeine and chemicals like MSG in takeout food typically do) instead of relaxing and calming you down?
  • Make you feel swollen and uncomfortable in your extremities, increases the feeling of heavy legs (salt typically does)? etc.
The 11 foods are:
  1. Sugar
  2. Chemicals and soft drinks
  3. Alcohol
  4. Coffee and caffeine
  5. Table salt
  6. Processed grains, baked goods, bread, pasta
  7. Processed soy products
  8. Dairy, cheese and whey protein
  9. Low quality protein powder, milk and bars
  10. Poor quality meat, too much or too little meat
  11. Farm-raised fish and fish high in mercury
Foods rich in tryptophan to add to your dinner plate

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid needed for general growth and development, producing niacin, and creating serotonin in the body. Serotonin is thought to produce healthy sleep and a stable mood. High tryptophan foods include nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, quinoa, spirulina, beans, lentils, and eggs. That explains why after eating meat and turkey, one may feel a bit sleepy! It also explains why newborn get drowsy and sleep on mother's milk:)

The recommended daily intake for tryptophan is 4mg per kilogram of body weight, or 1.8mg per pound. So a person weighing 70kg (~154 pounds) should consume around 280mg of tryptophan per day.

Foods rich in calcium and magnesium

Calcium (found in dairy and leafy greens) helps the brain use the tryptophan found in dairy to manufacture sleep-triggering melatonin. Additionally, calcium helps regulate muscle movements and together with magnesium, help prevent cramping at night.

Magnesium is a mineral needed for quality sleep. A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that when the body’s magnesium levels are too low, it makes it harder to stay asleep. Almonds are rich in magnesium, so are leafy greens. Green leafy vegetables like kale, mustard greens, spinach, collard greens are loaded with calcium, which helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. In addition, one of my favorite magnesium supplement is the drink CALM. Take it just 30 minutes before bedtime. It also comes in a formula with calcium.

Other foods which help promote good sleep

Lettuce. A salad with dinner could speed up your bedtime since lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties and affects the brain similarly to opium. You can also try this brew from the book Stealth Health: Simmer three to four large lettuce leaves in a cup of water for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add two sprigs of mint, and sip just before you go to bed.

Honey. The natural sugar found in honey slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain more easily, according to nutritionist Lindsey Duncan on A spoonful before bed or mixed with chamomile tea could give you a more restful sleep.

Cherries. A glass of cherry juice could make you fall asleep faster, according to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester. Cherries, particularly tart cherries, naturally boost levels of melatonin. In the study, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced some improvement in their insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage. Look for organic cherry juice with no sugar added like this brand.

Here are some healthy dinner snacks or light fares that may be able to help you fall asleep:
  • Chickpeas being a good source of tryptophan, a light dinner of hummus, vegetables and whole-grain crackers or organic corn chips (to help the tryptophan reach the brain with insulin surge), could be a good way to head into an afternoon nap.
  • Oatmeal with almonds and honey
  • A salad rich in leafy greens with a side of healthy nuts, goat cheese, shrimp, turkey or lean beef
  • A Zenberry Green or Zenberry Vanilla Chai smoothie
with warm almond milk and honey

ALCOHOL EXPERIMENT: Try not to drink any alcohol for 7 days and see how it affects your sleep.
According to the findings, alcohol does allow healthy people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while, but it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. And the more you drink before bed, the more pronounced these effects. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. Here's an interesting article on the topic.

I hope this knowledge helps you get started. I used to be insomniac and have worked hard at improving the quality of my sleep. Today I fall asleep on demand, within 5 minutes. My evenings are restful and morning filled with energy. In my online course "30 For Life, Module 8: Better Sleep", I share with you more information on supplements, teas and herbs, lifestyle changes, how to become a 15 min power napper anywhere and everywhere, and organize a step-by-step sequencing of the changes and experiments you can put in place to over the course of 30 days turn around your sleep patterns. It really works and it feels really good!

Further, between October 5th and 12th, I am leading a Fall Detox program which will focus on eating to relax and restore the body and creating an evening calming bedtime routine. It is a one time event where you will have my direct support. Registrations are now open until the beginning of October 2016. Check it out HERE.

Good luck in your experiments,